EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has opened a new soft-sided migrant processing facility in Northeast El Paso that will come in handy when the agency again has to deal with large migrant surges.
The new facility on U.S. Highway 54 can process up to 1,000 migrants apprehended in the El Paso Sector, which runs from Hudspeth County in Far West Texas to the New Mexico-Arizona state line.
The new facility, which national media reports have described as a football field-sized white tent, will complement the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center at Hondo Pass, also in Northeast El Paso. That facility opened in the fall of 2020 and had a capacity of 1,040.
The CPC and other existing facilities operated far above their capacity at various points during the on-again, off-again 4-year-old migrant surge. In late September and mid-December, CBP at times had nearly 5,000 migrants in custody. The numbers have fallen precipitously since late December, with the City of El Paso’s online migrant dashboard reporting 745 people in CBP custody as of Wednesday, with only 570 migrant encounters. As of Wednesday, community releases of paroled migrants to area nonprofits were also close to falling under 100, with 113 reported on Wednesday..
CBP says migrant encounters have steadily increased since April of 2020.
“We are getting one of 10 soft-sided facilities from CBP on U.S. Highway 54 in Northeast El Paso. It is one more processing area in order to deal with this current migrant influx and any possible end to Title 42,” Carlos A. Rivera, acting supervisory U.S. Border Patrol agent, told Border Report last month. “We will be able to encounter these migrants, put them into our facilities to be able to process these migrants and move them along in their immigration pathway.”
The new soft-sided facility was built in Northeast El Paso because of its central location within the sector, CBP said.
“The facility is weatherproof, climate-controlled, and is expected to provide ample areas for eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene,” CBP said Wednesday in a statement.
The facility is similar to other recently constructed soft-sided facilities. It provides a roof over 153,300 square feet of space and sits on 28 acres.
The facility comes at a time when the El Paso Sector is seeing a decrease in migrant encounters. However, the end of Title 42 still looms as a decision on the public health order is expected come February.
“We know that eventually Title 42 is going to go away and we’ll probably see that increase in migrants once again, it’s not a too little too late type of situation now that we have this central processing center,” said Rivera.
When the number of encounters was higher in El Paso, Border Patrol was releasing migrants on the streets due to capacity.
“Fortunately having another facility allows us to safely and humanely house these migrants while they’re being processed so again fortunately between more facilities, the decrease in numbers specifically were definitely not looking at provisional releases being back on the table,” said Rivera.
While media was not allowed inside the new facility, El Paso Non-Governmental Organizations were able to see inside. Patrick Giuliani the Policy Analyst at Hope Border Institute described the facility as massive.
“Just the massiveness of it really stuck out, compared to the central processing center it’s much bigger. Of course, it seems like there prepared to have this number of people to come through that they are expecting like I said their capacity is about 1,000,” said Giuliani.
He explains that there are showers, booths for processing, and containment units for holding people.
“One of the unique things about it was they had this huge outside play area or like yard filled with like AstroTurf and such like that like that to have people have the opportunity to be outside and not be inside all the time,” said Giuliani.
There was no word on Wednesday morning regarding how many migrants were at the facility or how many CBP officers or contractors were on site to operate it.
However, CBP Spokesperson Rivera did say during an interview that the facility will be manned by border patrol agents along with civilian staff and other contractors.